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Peace and security in the DRC are focus of conference at WCC

Peace and security in the DRC are focus of conference at WCC

© Albin Hillert/WCC

27 May 2015

A major conference on peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC), began on Wednesday its search for solutions to the DRC’s steepest challenges.

Hailing and welcoming the “vibrant ecumenical family of the DRC,” Peter Prove, director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, convened what he called the first major gathering in Geneva of churches and ecumenical partners on the DRC.

Participants convened the three-day conference to agree on ways to address four specific issues in the DRC: violent conflict, electoral integrity, environmental protection and human rights.

The conference follows on a 2009 “Living Letters” visit to the DRC by a WCC delegation, identification by the 2013 WCC 10th Assembly of the DRC as a “priority country” in its international work, and an April 2014 visit by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to an ecumenical forum in the nation’s capital, Kinshasa.

Evoking the spirit of Pentecost, Tveit spoke of the “clear, common purpose” of the meeting; that is, discerning together “how God’s spirit is calling us, inviting us and strengthening us for the ministry and service of the churches” in the DRC. Following on many prior years of ecumenical engagement in the DRC, he said, the time is ripe “to bring our discussions into action” and to ask, “What is the way forward in the search for peace and justice in the DRC?”

Tveit also referenced the pilgrimage of justice and peace as a way to describe the work of the ecumenical movement today and the strategic leadership of the WCC within it.

Although for many years the DRC has been “a context of suffering,” he said, “this gathering is a sign of hope for another story, another reality, another future” for the nation, as churches decide how to use their resources together for peace, security and sustainable development there.

An ambition of the conference is to produce “an ecumenical roadmap with recommendations for comprehensive development in a sustainable manner within a peaceful society,” said Rev. Milenge Mwenelwata of the Church of Christ in Congo.

Keynote speaker Bishop David Yemba, of the Methodist Church in the DRC, sketched the mountainous threats and challenges within the DRC, especially the deep insecurity brought on by resource pillaging, corruption in business and the public sector, and the ensuing poverty.   “Where is the church in all this?” he asked.

“The role of the church is its prophetic mission to challenge evil,” he said, though the “absence of cohesion among the churches undercuts its prophetic voice and its impact.”

The conference was also greeted via video by Dr Zainab Hawa Bangur, the UN secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict. She welcomed the further engagement of churches as “custodians of moral values,” especially in addressing gender violence and inequities.

The conference began with morning prayers in the chapel of the Ecumenical Centre, at which Patriarch John Baudouin Kayuwa Mikenyi of the Church of Christ Light of the Holy Spirit preached.

Follow the conference webcast (Webcast Pin: 365478)

Work of DRC churches in electoral process (WCC press release of 11 December 2014)

Blog post by Patriarch Jean Baudouin Kayuwa Mikenyi: Churches in the DRC embark on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

WCC member churches in the DRC